There are many reasons to be pumped about cardio exercises. For starters, it is great for stress relief and burning calories. But more importantly, cardio offers the best workouts for a healthy heart.

Short for ‘cardiovascular fitness’, cardio is a form of exercise that stimulates the heart to beat at a higher rate than normal, enabling pumping oxygenated blood to working muscles and other tissues and organs in the body. To put it simply, cardio exercises like walking, climbing stairs, swimming, etc., help increase the functional capacity of the heart, enhance respiratory efficiency, lower bad cholesterol and improving the body’s ability to absorb glucose.

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio five days a week. If you can’t manage a 30-minute workout, you can split it into two sessions of 15 minutes each.

There are several kinds of cardio workouts to choose from, both indoor and outdoor. At HealthifyMe, we plan routines covering different body weight exercises, step aerobics, dance, etc., for clients who want to workout at home. There are a number of workouts that can be incorporated into a 30-minute routine, and you can change it up to break the monotony. If that’s not your thing, you can always brisk walk or use an indoor cycle to cover your daily cardio quota.

Some of the cardio workouts for a healthy heart I’d recommend include:

Walking

brisk walk

Remember, this can’t be a stroll, but can’t be at a pace that leaves you breathless either. Make sure your pace is brisk enough that you can’t chat with your walking companion, if you have one.  To meet the daily requirement of 10,000 steps, a person has to remain active through the day. Don’t forget to warm up – a three-minute stair climb at 60-70 steps per minute will help get your heart rate up for the walk to follow.

Walk at home

If you can’t walk outdoors, you can opt for a walk at home programme. Apart from allowing you to cover the same distance and step count that you would if you walked outdoors, the biggest benefit of these kinds of routines is that they’re fun! It isn’t spot walking – you move back and forth, left and right, and in addition to cardio, the workout aims to improve strength and flexibility as well. But remember to choose a programme that is AHA approved.

Cycling

cycling outdoors

If you’re using an indoor bike, maintain 30-75 RPM (revolutions per minute) for 30 minutes. While you can’t monitor RPM when you’re cycling outdoors, pace yourself so that you touch 8-12 km per hour and be sure to ride for at least 30 minutes.

Swimming

If you’re a beginner, swim freestyle at moderate intensity, for 30 minutes. For more seasoned swimmers, the best workout would be 60 to 75 minutes per session three times a week. A minimum of 45 minutes is required to achieve a good cardio workout from water aerobics.

Body weight exercises

weight exercises

Like dance, this involves using your body to increase your heart rate. Any exercise that increases your heart rate to 130-140 bpm would be categorised as cardio. Ideally, a 30-minute plan should include a one-minute warm-up (on the steps, using a jump rope or even spot-jogging). That can be followed up by a routine that includes burpees, jumping jacks and mountain climbers (between 15-30 reps each, based on your fitness levels). Beginners should factor in a 30 second break between exercises, but if you’re already in training, no break is required.

The body weight exercises mentioned above are ideal for those who want to maintain heart health. But an experienced fitness enthusiast can add circuit training, kickboxing, cardio kickboxing, cardio combat, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabata for a more vigorous body weight workout.

Tai Chi

Depending on the speed and size of the movements, this low-impact, slow motion, ancient Chinese form of exercise can provide some aerobic benefits. An extremely mild form of cardio, its main benefit is that it offers a mind-body workout and can be performed by those who aren’t in top shape or the best of health.

While all of these cardio workouts meant to boost heart health, there are certain precautions to keep in mind before you jump in. Always remember to warm up and cool down to minimize strain on your heart. Also, if you’re suffering from blood pressure (BP) or diabetes, remain mindful of your underlying condition. So don’t workout on days when your BP fluctuates; if you’re on medication for diabetes, always carry a fast-acting carbohydrate food such as fruit or a piece of candy when exercising in case your blood sugar drops too low after a workout.

Our coaches can plan a 30-minute cardio workout customised for your schedule. Get in touch!

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Written by Meenakshi S.

Meenakshi S.

“Fitness begins at home, the food we eat and daily core activities like sleep and mind, body and spirit relaxation,” says nutritionist and physiotherapist Meenakshi S. Along with a master’s degree in physiotherapy from Oxford College, Bangalore and MD in alternative medicines, Meenakshi is also a child birth educator, pre and post-natal fitness expert and ACSM health and fitness specialist. Attributing the root cause of most lifestyle diseases to today’s sedentary pace, she shares HealthifyMe’s vision that healthy habits must be incorporated into your existing lifestyle. “Do not think of diet and exercise as sacrifice, make it a habit and enjoy it instead,” she says, recommending small changes to ease the mind and body towards a more wholesome life. Being skinny isn’t a sign of being fit or healthy, says Meenakshi, of the opinion that it’s important to test other physical fitness parameters like muscle strength, endurance and body composition. She’s charged for change – are you?

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